Between working 50 hours a week and finding time to raise his son, Alex, who is seeking his doctorate in genetic research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Ward struggled to find time of his own for school.
But after changing his major several times and accruing more than 170 credit hours, the 48-year-old finally crossed the stage at Christenberry Fieldhouse on Sunday as a college graduate.
“You just feel overwhelming joy because you know you don’t have to go back,” said Ward, who earned his bachelor’s degree inbusiness management.
Ward was joined by more
than 700 graduates who were honored at Georgia Regents University’s first fall commencement ceremony as a consolidated university.
Friends and family filed into Christenberry Fieldhouse as early as an hour before the event, shouting the names of their loved ones as the graduates filled in the seats crossing the arena’s floor.
Becky Blalock, the former senior vice president and chief information officer of Southern Co., delivered the commencement address, urging the graduates to set high goals for the future.
“I challenge you to set stretch goals for yourself,” she said. “To dream bigger than you think possible, because you are more capable than you realize. You are now armed with a degree from one of the most respected institutions in this country. There isn’t anything you can’t do.”
Tayler Kitlan, who earned her bachelor’s degree in music education, spent the moments leading up to the ceremony snapping pictures of herself in her graduation cap and gown.
The 22-year-old said she received several congratulatory messages from her music students at Evans High School, where she has been student-teaching since summer.
“It’s back to reality tomorrow,” she said. “After next week, I think I take a few months off before I start my job search.”
Jaclyn Harvey, who earned her bachelor’s degree in music performance, said she was wasting no time on working toward her next goal.
“Hopefully, with my credentials, I can get into a good grad school with a good opera program,” she said. “I started my degree five years ago, and to come this far, I feel like I’ve accomplished something big. I’m very, very proud.”
Though he was proud to finally earn his degree, Ward said he still has his work cut out for him. His wife, a Richmond County teacher, is working toward her doctorate in science education.
“I’ve got some catching up to do,” he said.